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Gauteng commuters cheer Prasa’s long-awaited reopening of key rail lines

Gauteng commuters cheer Prasa’s long-awaited reopening of key rail lines
Prasa rail train at Mzimhlophe station on 28 November 2022 in Soweto, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

Almost four years after the destruction of the country’s rail infrastructure, Prasa has been on a steady recovery path that has seen more crucial rail lines reopen. In Gauteng, 13 of the province’s 16 commuter lines have resumed operations.

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) announced on 2 April that three crucial rail lines in Gauteng opened at the end of March. These are: New Canada to Nancefield; Germiston to Khosini; and Johannesburg to Florida. 

Prasa has also reopened the Cape Town to Stellenbosch line in the Western Cape and Merebank to Chatsglen line in KwaZulu-Natal. 

The reopening of the three lines in Gauteng follows the return to service of 10 other rail lines in the province over the past 12 months, including key routes used by large numbers of commuters daily. 

This brings to 13 the total number of reopened rail lines in Gauteng. Three still remain out of action.

The other operational rail lines in Gauteng are: Pretoria to Saulsville; Pretoria to Pienaarspoort; Pretoria to Dewildt; Pretoria to Mabopane; Mabopane to Belle-Ombre; Pretoria to Irene; Pretoria to Kempton Park; Leralla to Germiston; Naledi to Johannesburg; and Vereeniging to Union.

Gauteng Prasa spokesperson Lillian Mofokeng said the older train set, yellow in colour, will be used on the Vereeniging to Union route. The rest of the corridors will run the new EMU trains, known as Isitimela Sabantu or The People’s Trains.

In 2023, Prasa said it planned to spend R50-billion over three years on rolling stock and infrastructure investments for the modernisation, reconstruction and recovery of the rail network.

Commuter rail services came to a halt during the Covid pandemic, allowing theft and vandalism to run rampant.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Dead in our tracks: No trains, just more ruin as thieves and vandals strip Gauteng stations bare

Affordability is key

Thabo Musi, a Soweto resident who lost his livelihood following the destruction of the rail infrastructure, has been surviving on selling recycled waste for the past three and a half years. 

Musi sold an assortment of goods on the trains and in the stations around Johannesburg. 

“I cannot even travel to Johannesburg to hustle because I cannot pay R50 [on a taxi] when that money can buy my children three loaves of bread,” Musi told Daily Maverick.

Most commuters will tell you that the main drawcard for train travel is the affordability. It’s two to three times cheaper than a taxi.

A one-way taxi trip to Johannesburg costs Musi R27, while a train ride costs him only R8.50.

Nobuhle Zikalala from Lenasia would ordinarily use trains running along the Vereeniging to Johannesburg line, but because services remain cancelled, she walks several kilometres to access a train on the Naledi to Johannesburg line. 

“It’s a huge risk to leave my house so early because of the high crime rate in the area … I have no choice but to use the cheaper trains,” Zikalala said.

She said it was exciting news that train services were steadily returning to many areas, as people were desperate for affordable means of transport. 

“Even though the Johannesburg to Vereeniging line will only be extended to Midway and not to Lenasia, it’s still a huge win for many of us and I cannot wait for my first proper train ride in years,” Zikalala said. 

Prasa’s Mofokeng told Daily Maverick, “No date has been set for resumption of services on the Vereeniging to Johannesburg corridor.”

Reversing decline

Prasa served 600 million passengers across the country annually before the theft and vandalism that erupted during the pandemic when rail services were suspended.

The government’s cancellation of security contracts further exacerbated the situation

Read more in Daily Maverick: While vandalism and cable theft continue, Prasa makes progress in restoring rail services

In June 2023, Prasa axed board chairperson Leonard Ramatlakane. 

In 2022, then transport minister Fikile Mbalula said Prasa’s use of copper  had been drastically reduced to avoid theft. Many of the operations that used copper cables now use an aluminium replacement. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dennis Haig says:

    A definite step in the right direction. Well done prasa.

  • Andre Swart says:

    The trains will soon be sabotaged again by the taxi mafia.

    This country will NEVER AGAIN enjoy the excellent train service the ANC took over after 1994, and destroyed!

    Destruction, chaos and anarchy is in their DNA.

  • Prasa is doing à good job after the infrastructure was destroyed but our peoplemust rememberrhat taxi industry is going to distruct. The zamazama will be stealing cables .Passengers must stop burning trains .

  • We appreciate the resuscitation of train but in what I read, I don’t see Daveyton, Springs and most of Ekurhuleni. Vosloorus residents have never got opportunity of getting reasonably price when it comes to public transport No trains in Vosloorus at all and we are all citizens of Gauteng and South Africa in General there must be a train in Vosloorus.

    • mlungisiwisemanmthanti says:

      Hi, I’m curious to know does Vosloorus have an existing rail network (even if it has been stripped to nothing). Cause if not, there is little chance that it’ll be established. The current Transport Minister Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga has mentioned in a radio interview that there are no intentions of creating new railway routes only resurrecting existing pre-apartheid lines that are economically viable for the transportation of people and commodities.

      I do find it unfair as townships have expanded now accommodating more people than in the apartheid era, the rail network is only limited to what the region once was not is now.

  • S N says:

    Excellent progress! Kudos to PRASA.

  • Paul B says:

    Why should we applaud the reconstructing/reopening of something that should never have been closed or destroyed to begin with?

  • Jimbo Smith says:

    A rare good news story in the fog and gloom of random destruction on view daily. The key question; how long before the taxi bosses erupt and cause carnage and destruction? Any hint of competition is simply not in their DNA. Watch this space….

  • pmswanepoel says:

    600 million? How?

  • You cannot praise a fish for swimming. The state is constitutionally obliged to provide,reliable, affordable public transport to the poor

  • Brian Cotter says:

    Let us not forget – Prasa served 600 million passengers across the country annually before the theft and vandalism that erupted during the pandemic when rail services were suspended.
    This took place under Fikile Mbalula watch.
    Missing is the “cost” to refurbish due to the above and all we see is R50 billion rand more for 3 years for rolling stock and infrastructure.
    What would have been the security cost during covid to stop the rampant theft.

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    Great now start getting rid of taxis on the road. then getting rid of trucks destroying our roads. so now just sort out sensible busses of which many terminals remain incomplete and have been for years. any taxi driver protests, strikes and vandalism must be dealt with immediately. they have had a good run and indeed they did provide a service while Transport dept dilly dallied but the disrespect shown by taxi drivers to both their customers and road users generally must end.

  • Penny Philip says:

    Such good news for commuters!

  • Alf None' says:

    Is it planned to re-open the East Rand (Springs) to Johannesburg line.
    This was used by many students and other commuters who worked mainly in Johannesburg and Germiston and surrounds

  • Jeff Sehume says:

    Cool runnings good news indeed…

  • John Ingram says:

    Perhaps there is an election coming – hence another cheery news article. Does anyone think the taxi bosses will lose business to the trains without a fight !

  • Daniel Dunjua says:

    I hope they open line from Jhb to Daveyton.

  • victorbartnick1 says:

    We really give thanks and salute prasa for getting the railway going again but they will have a major mission to keep it going because vandals and gangsters will always be there to break down what u build up that’s why the community should be the eyes and ears report when they see something and not wait for it to really get worse. We in Mitchellsplain are patiently waiting for our lines to open because traveling in and out of Mitchells plain is a major disaster with a car, taxi or bus but we hope and pray our lines will open soon �

  • Anthony Krijger says:

    The taxi industry is an unregulated bunch of bandits that frequently gun down any opposition to their pirated “routes”.
    As soon as they start losing trade to trains, they will simply do what they did in Cape Town, Eastern Cape and central Joburg, which is start making any alternatives to taxis’ simply dangerous, by shooting drivers and commuters. And we have an undertrained and inept police force top heavy with useless brass powerless to do anything about crime.

  • Trevor Pope says:

    Expect a few burning trains in next few months…

  • batting 101 Captain says:

    The brain fog at PRASA puzzles the living daylights out of the consumer…this has to be FREE.. No platform , No security , just hop on the taxi, cause the lawless will not like this transformation
    FOG cannot be explained to a moron. All existing and even future infrastructure is shot. This essential piece of 1st world transportation dream will not create jobs or be reliable and even provide the service to meet the jobless.
    Just look at Reya Veya crap…Lipstick in abundance.

  • D Rod says:

    I think you are four days late with your comment….

  • moditi boale says:

    Uh uh

  • Just Me says:

    What will Prasa do with the stations that have been physically stolen? The ANC’s incompetence knows no bounds.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    I do celebrate this for our people but I can’t help thinking 10 steps back, 1 step forward…

  • Prasa is so proud of opening line from Pretoria to mabopane but people who use the stations between Pretoria and mabopane cannot use the trains because the stations are not fixed. The mabopane trains has been operating for long time and why is it taking so long to finish kopanong and akasia stations.

  • lebona.mosia says:

    I enjoy reading Daily Maverick.

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